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Future of Irish P&O routes hangs in the balance after ferry giant sacks 800 staff​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ with immediate effect​​​​​​​

All sailings suspended ‘for the next few days’ after shock announcement


The company will be replacing the workers with cheaper agency staff. Photo: Eamonn Farrell.

The company will be replacing the workers with cheaper agency staff. Photo: Eamonn Farrell.

The company will be replacing the workers with cheaper agency staff. Photo: Eamonn Farrell.

Hundreds of Irish P&O passengers have had their sailings cancelled, with the future of Irish routes now uncertain after the shipping giant sacked 800 workers and replaced then with cheaper agency staff.

P&O runs two passenger and freight routes from Ireland, from Dublin Port to Liverpool and from Larne in Antrim to Cairnryan in Scotland.

However the UK-based company suddenly suspended all services yesterday ‘for the next few days’ as it announced it was sacking 800 sailing staff to cut costs.

A P&O Ferries spokesperson said: “P&O Ferries services are unable to run for the next few days. We are advising travellers of alternative arrangements.”

Referring to the Dubin-Liverpool service, the spokesperson said: “Our services are currently unable to run. All customers affected will be contacted by our port teams.”

It is understood the Government has now contacted P&O Ferries to find out exactly what the impact on its Irish routes will be.

The Department of Transport told the Irish Independent it is “closely monitoring” the situation in Ireland with regards to Irish staff.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, as well as department officials are “aware” of the suspension of P&O Ferry services and of the subsequent 800 job losses, a spokesperson said.

“We understand from the company’s public statement that 800 of its seafaring staff are to be made redundant with immediate effect.

“The Department has been in contact with P&O but has not received any details about the situation.

“Until those details are made known, it is not possible to comment on the likely impact of these decisions on P&O operations into Ireland or for the Irish-based employees or Irish seafarers.

“The shipping sector has shown itself in the past, particularly through Covid and Brexit, to be resilient and responsive whatever the circumstances might be.

“There is every expectation that if services on the Dublin/Liverpool route are affected, the shipping sector will respond swiftly and comprehensively to the changes in demand from the market.

“The department is closely monitoring the situation and assessing any potential impacts.”

Unions were threatening legal action against P&O last night.

The move sparked outrage from British politicians, while many workers  refused to leave ships, leading to the incredible scene of security guards with handcuffs being deployed to remove them.

The ferry operator, bought by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World in 2019, insisted the decision to cut jobs was “very difficult but necessary” as it was “not a viable business” in its current state.

The UK’s Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations.”

It is understood news of redundancies was delivered by the company to staff via video link.

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: “In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m (€118m) loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World.

"This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.

“These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options.

“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.

“In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK. And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years.”

The Irish Independent asked P&O Ferries about Irish jobs and passengers affected but the company did not respond.

The Department of Transport said that P&O currently operates on the Dublin-Liverpool route, carrying mainly unaccompanied freight.

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